Brooklyn was 6 years old when she began therapeutic riding lessons with us. She had been diagnosed with autism and was a choice mute. She was fearful, and for weeks we gave her the maximum support: a leader, side-walkers, and moving at a glacial pace. Each time she tolerated being on the horse for an additional few minutes, we considered it a success. She seemed to be most comfortable with Jojo, one of our wonderful therapy horses.
One day, out of the blue, Brooklyn spoke for the first time. She said, "Jojo, I love you!" There wasn't a dry eye in the arena.
A few weeks later, we learned she had told her mother that she loved her for the first time. Together, we cried again.
When Brooklyn first came to Healing Strides, she was already receiving 4 different types of therapy. Her mother was very hesitant to add a 5th to the mix with therapeutic riding but decided to give it a try in the end. As Brooklyn spent more and more time in the barn, her mom began to notice a pattern.
As Brooklyn learned to groom her horse, she learned sequencing and timing. Eventually, she was able to stop occupational therapy. As she learned to tack her horse, adjust buckles and coordinate how to get off and on, she gave up physical therapy. As Brooklyn found her voice to tell Jojo to "walk on" and "woah" and began to speak to her riding instructor and other kids in her lesson group, she stopped speech therapy.
Independence came slowly at first, but soon we found Brooklyn able to ride without leaders or side-walkers. Then she was getting her horse out of the paddock by herself. Before we knew it, she was grooming, tacking, learning to trot, then canter, and even going over small jumps. As her confidence grew, her mental health healed. Her mother let us know that they were only seeing a psychologist once a month now.
These changes were manifested in this young lady's personal life as well. As she entered high school, she joined the cheerleading team. We watched her flourish into young adulthood and graduate, chasing her dreams.
The second largest diagnosis we serve is autism. The saying goes, "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." Each person is incredibly unique, and each therapeutic approach must be equally so.
We meet people where they are, how they are, whatever that looks like. It’s not about us — it’s about the healing power of horses. The hope they bring simply by giving us humans a safe space to be ourselves is truly the greatest gift, and at Healing Strides we are blessed to share this healing with our community.